Proclaiming the gospel involves risks
January 17 2003 by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer

Proclaiming the gospel involves risks | Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Friday, Jan. 17, 2003

Proclaiming the gospel involves risks

By Jim Royston BSC Executive Director-treasurer

One of the major characteristics of the earliest church leaders was their willingness to preach the gospel to all people everywhere, regardless of the risks involved. This was especially amazing when you realize that virtually all of the earliest Christian leaders were orthodox Jews whose religious traditions did not encourage the conversions of "outsiders." By all accounts, they should have "kept the faith safe" and stayed within their own ranks.

The greatest challenges these early Christian leaders faced did not come from the secular Roman authorities as much as it did from the Jewish guardians of orthodoxy who were dedicated to stamping out this new "Jesus movement." The first enemy of the gospel came from within organized religion.

No New Testament character better illustrates this point of crossing cultural barriers than the life and ministry of the Apostle Peter. Peter, simply put, was a very traditional Jew; an impulsive, staunch, no-compromise follower of the Law of Moses. Peter was a laborer, a fisherman. He probably had little use for discussions on world religions or how God could reveal Himself to anyone outside the chosen people.

Then Peter met Cornelius. Cornelius is a Gentile who, according to Acts 10:1-3, was a devout man who feared God with his entire household; gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. Cornelius summoned Peter and Peter baptized Cornelius. In this act of obedience, Peter learned something new and radical: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of Jesus Christ, shows no partiality.

Showing partiality, whether racial, ethnical, national or even theological, has always been the enemy of the Christian faith. In a sense, the entire New Testament is a story of God unfolding His message to all nations. Jesus could often be found ministering to "the wrong people," like Samaritans, women, lepers, tax collectors and publicans. Some of the earliest church disputes, as reported in Acts, are over the issue of inclusiveness. How should the early church include non-Jews within its ranks - people outside the traditional faith?

Proclaiming the gospel, for most of our churches, has primarily meant baptizing our children and grandchildren. Our state grew over 20 percent during the last decade with our churches growing only around 3 to 4 percent. One high growth county added 50,000 people from 1990-2000 with the Southern Baptist churches in that area adding only 600 new members.

What has happened? Simply put, "our kind of people" are rapidly being outnumbered. And, too often, our churches have only attracted "our kind of people."

North Carolina Baptists need to become greater risk-takers. We need to move outside our comfort zones and reach into our communities with a message of hope and inclusiveness. The gospel message we proclaim should never be taken hostage to how we say it. There is no "right way" or "one way" to do worship, evangelism, missions or Christian education.

In a word, we need to develop more Peters because we are a state rapidly filling up with more Corneliuses.

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1/17/2003 12:00:00 AM by Jim Royston , BSC Executive Director-treasurer | with 0 comments
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